99 designs shares insights with users

Improving Product Offerings with Industry Insights

Using SurveyMonkey Audience, 99designs gathered feedback from the graphic design community to enhance designer outreach efforts.


99designs—the leading online marketplace for crowd-sourced graphic design—provides customers with the ability to source original graphic design work quickly and inexpensively. With over 180,000 graphic designers in 192 countries, a major part of the business includes helping designers develop their professional skillsets and build lasting client relationships.

In an effort to better serve their growing community, the team at 99designs honed in on one of the more challenging facets of designer-client relationships: effective communication. After hearing plenty of anecdotal evidence from designers and customers alike about the struggle to understand one another, 99designs sought a way in which to find quantifiable data to support these claims and ultimately begin the process of bridging the communication gap.

This project required candid feedback from working designers and not just within their own network. Eager to gather the opinions of design professionals across the globe, 99designs turned to SurveyMonkey Audience for access to this community.

Key Insights


For online marketplaces, growing the list potential vendors can be just as important as growing a customer base. In the case of 99desgins, understanding the needs and challenges of its vendors—in this case, graphic designers—is essential. In a marketplace where the goods being sold are essentially the designers themselves, positive client experiences are the primary source of driving new business, making a designer’s ability to effectively communicate with clients a critical element for success.

After using SurveyMonkey Audience to create a survey and send it to graphic designers, 99designs gathered a great deal of insights about the kinds of challenges the design community faces in an online marketplace like finding new clients and maintaining those relationships; both key factors in continuing to build the business. Their survey—appropriately titled “How to Woo a Designer”—confirmed suspicions about the disconnect between clients’ needs and designers’ wants and ultimately gave them a keener understanding of the differences between the two.

Other Insights

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Designers Crave Clear Direction

When working with clients, the designers surveyed struggled most with unclear instructions.

Almost 50% of respondents cited that their clients’ lack of direction is their biggest challenge, closely followed by unclear understanding of the project and unrealistic expectations as common sources of conflict

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Responsiveness Is Key

When asked what would make a perfect client, almost 60% of designers cited responsiveness—a facet critical to the iterative process that comes with refining a design. They also reported that they wanted to work with people who have a clear goals (45%) and a willingness to give their designer creative freedom (45%).

Business Is Personal

Graphic designers largely source new business in relatively traditional ways and rely on personal relationships to build their client bases. Whether through referrals or in-person networking, the designers surveyed reported back that they primarily win new business through existing contacts.

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While graphic designers claimed they pitch their talent and skills everywhere from dinner parties to family gatherings to bars, they struggle to successfully market themselves.

Nearly 50% of respondents admitted that failing to market themselves properly prevented them from winning new business; far more than any other professional challenge like lack of experience or access to networking opportunities.

Project Overview

Great surveys begin with clearly defined objectives. Goal-based projects ensure that survey questions will produce data that can drive straightforward results and simple analysis. 99designs started their project by identifying several key goals prior to writing their survey.

Understand how graphic designers build successful client relationships
  • What are the common challenges for graphic designers when working with clients?
  • What does the ideal client look like?
Learn more about habits, practices, and skill sets of graphic designers
  • How do they source new clients?
  • What are the challenges in signing new clients?
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Finding an Audience

For this project, 99designs wanted feedback from a very specific community: graphic designers located across the United States. Looking at the population of graphic designers in the U.S., 99designs calculated their sample size to determine that 200 respondents would provide them with statistically significant results.

After creating their survey and reviewing SurveyMonkey Audience’s targeting criteria, 99designs selected an audience of college-educated women, ages 30 and above, who own smartphones, with household incomes over $90K.

Respondent Snapshot

99designs’ respondents came from across the U.S., and had a variety of educational backgrounds and design interests. Over 60% had formal training in graphic design and 57% selected logo and branding design as their favorite type of project.

Putting Results Into Action

For graphic designers, the key to a successful project is straightforward communication with clients. The survey’s respondents overwhelmingly reported back that when their clients have a clear vision for what they want, the designs produced are better, created more quickly, and ultimately, more cost-effective for both parties.

Since 99designs aims to attract and retain designers by helping them build relationships and grow their portfolios, they realized that helping designers effectively work with clients is a critical focus area. Using the survey’s results, the 99designs team turned the data into a infographic and published it on their blog—continuing their mission of generating educational content to help their designer base win future business.

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